The Manchurian Columnist

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Sigh. Even when he gets it right, Paul Krugman gets it wrong. His article today truly is based upon talking points that seem to have come from the DNC headquarters itself. Like Paul Revere, Krugman is riding his horse and shouting from the saddle, “To arms, to arms, the small government people are here!”

Who are the Apostles of “small government”? Why, it is those dastardly Republicans, you know, the same Republicans that gave us wars overseas, gigantic deficits, a housing bubble, and upticks in federal spending that were matched only by the Vietnam-Great Society years of the 1960s. Lest you think I am imagining things, here is Krugman in his own words:

For readers who don’t know what I’m talking about: ever since Reagan, the G.O.P. has been run by people who want a much smaller government. In the famous words of the activist Grover Norquist, conservatives want to get the government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

Oh, yes, and the GOP has been following Norquist’s instructions ever since. (Krugman always trots out that quote whenever he wants to play his Paul Revere role to protect the overpowering and expansive state as something that is “progress.”)

But why have those Republicans not been able to keep their evil promises? Why, because government social programs are popular:

But there has always been a political problem with this agenda. Voters may say that they oppose big government, but the programs that actually dominate federal spending — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — are very popular. So how can the public be persuaded to accept large spending cuts?

So, how have these stealth “small government” activists done it? What is their secret plan? Why, tax cuts! Yeah, cut the top rates so government cannot collect as many taxes and give us Nirvana!

The conservative answer, which evolved in the late 1970s, would be dubbed "starving the beast" during the Reagan years. The idea — propounded by many members of the conservative intelligentsia, from Alan Greenspan to Irving Kristol — was basically that sympathetic politicians should engage in a game of bait and switch. Rather than proposing unpopular spending cuts, Republicans would push through popular tax cuts, with the deliberate intention of worsening the government’s fiscal position. Spending cuts could then be sold as a necessity rather than a choice, the only way to eliminate an unsustainable budget deficit.

Uh, ladies and gentlemen, please tell me when the Republicans actually cut spending. Ronald Reagan certainly didn’t, and the Bushes did not during their presidencies. Karl Rove pushed the welfare state expansion, and the Republicans were anxious to follow his instructions when they controlled all three branches of the federal government.

For that matter, Republicans pushed cuts in tax rates in order to change the sets of incentives for private enterprise, and I certainly think that cutting the rates during the 1980s was a good thing. When I asked Krugman if he supported the old 70 percent pre-1981 tax rates (at a public session at the 2004 Southern Economic Association meetings in New Orleans), Krugman replied, “Oh, no! Those rates were insane!” So, I guess Krugman was against those high rates before he supported them.

In other words, we are not receiving an accurate picture of what Republicans are doing. (Don’t elect those monsters! They might CUT YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY!) Instead, I think that Glenn Greenwald of Salon presents a much more accurate picture of the modern GOP, one that is based upon reality and is not something that comes out of Wonderland:

This is what Republicans always do. When in power, they massively expand the power of the state in every realm. Deficit spending and the national debt skyrocket. The National Security State is bloated beyond description through wars and occupations, while no limits are tolerated on the Surveillance State. Then, when out of power, they suddenly pretend to re-discover their "small government principles." The very same Republicans who spent the 1990s vehemently opposing Bill Clinton’s Terrorism-justified attempts to expand government surveillance and executive authority then, once in power, presided over the largest expansion in history of those very same powers. The last eight years of Republican rule was characterized by nothing other than endlessly expanded government power, even as they insisted — both before they were empowered and again now — that they are the standard-bearers of government restraint.

Greenwald continues:

…(the) GOP limited government rhetoric is simply never matched by that Party’s conduct, especially when they wield power. The very idea that a political party dominated by neocons, warmongers, surveillance fetishists, and privacy-hating social conservatives will be a party of “limited government” is absurd on its face. There literally is no myth more transparent than the Republican Party’s claim to believe in restrained government power. For that reason, it’s only a matter of time before the fundamental incompatibility of the “tea party movement” and the political party cynically exploiting it is exposed.

I could not agree more. Unfortunately, Krugman wants to continue the false message that Republicans are going to cut the state, and everyone knows that the state is the lifeblood for all of us. I mean, how can we survive unless government agents are in every room of our houses telling us what to do?!?

After reading Krugman’s blather about the "low-tax, small-government" Republicans, there is only one conclusion I can make: Paul Krugman is the Manchurian Columnist! Yes, he actually is a Republican operative in disguise telling us that Republicans are going to give us less government and lower taxes in order to convince us to vote for them.

But when the GOP actually takes power, the welfare state will grow! Don’t you see the connection? I must let Hollywood know at once!

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit his blog.

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